Released by: One 7 Movies
Released on: January 31st, 2017.
Director: Sergio Stivaletti
Cast: Robert Hossein, Romina Mondello, Riccardo Serventi Longhi, Gabriella Giorgelli, Umberto Balli
Year: 1997 Purchase From Amazon
When Lucio Fulci passed away in 1996, what would have been his most recent picture wound up being directed by special effects maestro Sergio Stivaletti. Produced by none other than Dario Argento, Wax Mask doesn’t compete with the more established classics of Italian horror. But as a last gasp for what in the decades prior had been one of the greatest producers of horror pictures, it’s a decent watch.
The film is set in the Paris of the 1800s where, as the city celebrates the dawn of a new century, a maniac wielding a razor sharp claw slashes his way through the city killing a mother and daughter in front of their young daughter. The years pass and that girl grown into a beautiful woman named Sonia (Romina Mondello). Like everyone else in town, she’s curious about the new wax museum that has just opened up nearby – it’s all anyone is talking about these days!
Meanwhile, a man named Andrea (Serventi Longhi) makes a bet with one of his fellow prostitute loving pals that he can sneak into the museum and spend the night. The bet is made and Andrea heads into the place, only to come face to face with its owner and proprietor, Boris Volkoff (Robert Hossein). Andrea soon learn that Volkoff is not right in the head – he’s got a secret lab in the wax museum where he would appear to be dipping dead hookers into wax and building strange, and unusually sharp, metallic appendages. Soon enough Andrea and Sonia find a way to work together to hopefully stop Volkoff from killing again – but of course, he does kill again, quite a few times actually, before they’re able to sort all of this out.
Wax Mask cares not for logic or sense and it’s loaded with plot holes, questionable character choices and generally poor writing (Fulci and Argento worked on the screen play together with help from Daniele Stroppa but it is not without some rather glaring problems). The influence of classic and gothic horror writing and films is evident throughout and the movie does not lack in visual style, but the ending is pretty terrible and almost completely succeeds in undoing all of the good that Stivaletti does with the visuals. To be fair, the movie really is quite a nice looking picture. The costumes are well done and the locations are beautifully photographed and often times nicely lit with a lot of those bold primary colors Italians are rightly so fond of in their horror pictures. The cinematography is top notch and the score from Maurizio Abeni isn’t half bad.
The quality of the English dubbing in the movie doesn’t help things, however (it’s obvious that most of the actors are not speaking English, the lip movements typically don’t come all that close to approximating what is being said). But hey, there is some good gore here and the effects are not only adequate but often times remarkably impressive. Had there been as much attention paid to the writing and the acting (most of the players here are not so good, but Hossein is at least fun to watch) as there was to the visuals this probably would have been great. As it stands, Wax Mask is not great, but it’s entertaining enough despite its obvious flaws.
Wax Mask gets a waxy transfer from One 7 Movies. Presented in AVC encoded 1080p high definition and framed at 1.78.1 widescreen, this transfer suffers from some pretty over done noise reduction making even the characters who are made of flesh and blood look like one of the museum’s exhibits. To make matters worse, there’s some pretty obvious sharpening going on here too, possibly in an attempt to recreate the detail lost by the DNR. Having gotten that out of the way, to be fair this is still a noticeable improvement over the long out of print DVD from Image Entertainment. Black levels are good and colors really pop here, but those hoping for anything even remotely resembling a film like presentation are likely going to be disappointed. It’s not on par with the worst offerings from Raro like Meet Him And Die, but it’s not that far off.
Audio options for the feature are provided in Dolby True HD and Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo, in English, while Italian language options are provided in the same formats. There are no subtitles of any kind included here, so if you don’t speak Italian then those Italian language tracks are going to be pretty useless to you. Clarity on the English Dolby TrueHD track is okay, but the 5.1 remix isn’t really all that spectacular. Regardless, the dialogue is clean, clear and easy to understand and there are no noticeable issues with any hiss or distortion. Towards the end of the movie for some reason there are a few lines that revert to Italian when they were in English on the old DVD. These lines are not subtitled. Strange.
The main extra on the disc is a twenty-two minute behind the scenes featurettes that shows the cast and crew hard at work on the picture. There’s some interesting footage in here, particularly in regards to the effects work and the sets, and it does offer the rare chance to see Stivaletti at work. The effects get a more detailed look in a separate thirteen minute featurette that shows off some of the design work, the mechanics involved in bringing it to life and more.
Outside of that? Static menus and chapter selection and some truly ugly cover art.
The Final Word:
Fans of Wax Mask will appreciate the upgrade, even if the transfer is far less than perfect, and the inclusion of some extras is a nice touch. The movie itself has its moments, but it's more interesting for what it could have been than for what it actually is.
Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!